Do we really need a lot of protein? How much is enough? Find out how to determine your individual protein needs for optimal health.
Do we really need a lot of protein? I have asked that question many times over the years. Being a part of the raw food movement once led me to the philosophy that we really don’t need a ton of protein, but we do need a balanced and steady supply. When running around at a raw food festival, I was accused of being a skinny, nutrient-deficient person and told that I should look into incorporating more protein into my diet. I was a bit taken aback by that remark. I’d been told that it was actually hard to be protein deficient nowadays.
I decided to find out for myself if there was any truth to that remark, so I had myself tested, and, sure enough, I was lacking in some amino acids that could potentially affect my health. I started to do a little research about protein and what it actually does for us. I was quite surprised with what I found because I thought that the only thing protein did was build muscle. Let me share with you some other benefits of protein.
All of the structural material of your body is built out of protein. That means bones, tendons, ligaments, skin, teeth, and hair all rely heavily on protein. Every reaction that occurs within the body, be it nervous, circulatory, digestion, muscular, or cerebral, is dependent on amino acids, the building blocks of protein. This is why we need adequate amounts of protein. Otherwise serious problems could result. We need protein most when we are young and growing or when we're undergoing stress such as surgery, disease, or even bodybuilding.
Once the body is grown, there is a constant need for protein as we replace broken down tissue and old cells. These are constantly being torn down to be replaced with new, healthy tissue which requires protein and other nutrients. If inadequate protein comes into the system from food, the body will leach it from our protein storage warehouse, our muscles. So, if we are protein deficient, we may lose muscle tone and structure, and we will look emaciated and appear under-nourished, which in fact we are. If we continue to be protein deficient and our muscles are depleted, then the body will continue to scavenge for protein, turning to our vital organs. This is when we can become wasted, lose power, and grow thin and weak.
An under-abundance of protein affects infants dramatically. They can be permanently impaired, affecting the brain, causing less intelligence, limiting adaptability, and leading to other developmental troubles.
Protein is a macronutrient and must be supplied on a daily basis. Our bodies do not store protein, other than in our muscles, but we do not want to draw from our muscles. We should give our bodies a clean source of protein so it can maintain healthy hair, skin, nails, bones, organs, and mental function. Our bodies even make hormones and enzymes from protein. So, needless to say, it is essential that we get protein daily and at least 40 to 60 grams. I prefer clean-burning protein foods to those that give off toxins. Plant-based proteins are known to release less toxins than those from animals as toxins tend to accumulate higher up in the food chain.